Jack Bai
urban design & landscape architecture
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Saving Place | Poughkeepsie, NY

Saving Place | Poughkeepsie, NY


Columbia GSAPP, M.S Architecture & Urban Design
Instructors: Lee Altman, Michael Murphy, Chris Kroner, James Carse, Caitlin Taylor, Justin Moore, David Smiley
Fall Studio 2017
Project Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
In Collaboration with Donovan Dunkley, Ban Edilbi, Meng Li and Linda Schilling


The city of Poughkeepsie, one of the most ethnically diverse cities within the Mid-Hudson region, has witnessed several waves of immigration. European populations started arriving in the mid-19th century, and were followed by African American populations from the Southern States, to the more recent wave from Central and South America, these communities organized themselves through networks of local establishments. Through studying the networks in Poughkeepsie, the proposal focuses on churches - that can work as community centers - to strengthen the social networks of long-established and recent residents.


Documentary + Animation


Site Interaction: The Gallery of us

Main Street, Poughkeepsie, NY

Churches were essential to the agency of these networks and provided spaces for social interaction beyond the individual. Many times these collectives provided resources like clothing, food, healthcare and recreation that could not easily be obtained elsewhere in the community, and enabled specific and local cultural production. As a result these centers were associated with safety, refuge and stability. But this historic stability is under threat. Since 2010, The Archdiocese of New York has been conducting a parish reform named ‘Making all things new”, which will close 10% of all churches in NY state because of shrinking congregations and changing demographics. Poughkeepsie’s Polish Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s, is among the 32 churches in the state to be closed.


regional Scale


Culture assets in the city scale

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Social Portrait in the city scale

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In order for these establishments to survive, partnerships to combine resources must be explored. St. Joseph’s Church can be the test case for such program in Poughkeepsie. In an effort to consolidate, the congregation has been combined with St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, where the constituents are almost completely Oaxacan. While St. Mary’s mass is held in English, Spanish and now Polish, the church body of St. Joseph has lost all outreach programs that once served the community. This loss of programming and thus social infrastructure impairs the already underserved communities.

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We believe that this consolidation exhibited by St Joseph’s has great potential to allow for the overlap of programming to step in. The churches and spaces left behind that once played an important role in these communities can once again be appropriated through preservation and adaptive reuse in a way that transcends the church’s religious identity. Through the implementation of localized and decentralized programming, a new typology of flexible infrastructure, new sites of interaction and collaboration, shared time schedules and consolidated resources, a larger cultural production is possible. These new opportunities for income would ultimately support the establishment of more inclusive and diverse community centers, and thus restore a sense of stability that has been taken away from the community.

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  1. Archdiocese of New York. (2017). Decisions Released 5/8/2015. [online] Available at: https://archny.org/decisions-released-2 [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].
  2. Barry, J. (2017). Poughkeepsie declares itself ‘Safe City’ for undocumented immigrants. [online] The Poughkeepsie Journal. Available at: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/2017/06/20/poughkeepsie-safe-city-immigrants/412596001/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].
  3. DADS. (2017). American FactFinder - Community Facts. [online] Factfinder.census.gov. Available at: https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml?src=bkmk [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].
  4. Lueck, S. (2017). St. Mary’s, Our Lady of the Falls - Parish History. [online] Catholic-church.org. Available at: http://catholic-church.org/saintmarys/history.htm [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].
  5. Nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com. (2017). National Register of Historical Places - NEW YORK (NY). [online] Available at: http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/ny/state.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].
  6. Nyshcr.org. (2017). New York State Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. [online] Available at: http://www.nyshcr.org/Programs/NYS-CDBG/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].
  7. Schutzman, N. (2017). VIDEO: St. Joseph’s Church closes its doors after 114 years. [online] The Poughkeepsie Journal. Available at: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/2015/07/31/final-mass-st-josephs-church/30941845/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].